2016 gun deer hunting season outlook: good or bad?

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EAU CLAIRE COUNTY, Wis (WEAU) -- Opening weekend for the gun deer season is upon us, but what is the outlook for hunters? Will it be a good or bad season for hunting?

The Department of Natural Resources says they can’t predict how well hunters will do this gun season, but there are some signs leading it in a positive direction; two months into the bow season, the DNR says hunters should be optimistic when it comes to the gun season.

"From what we can tell right now, the harvest is up from last year, which is a good sign going into the gun season," Bill Hogseth, a DNR Wildlife Biologist in Eau Claire, said.

Hogseth says last year’s mild winter should have helped in the growth of deer herds, so people should see more deer.

"The weather looks favorable for hunting conditions,” Hogseth said. “I think some people are still seeing deer on the move. We're in the tail end of the rut, so deer movement should be pretty good.”

Hogseth says one of the factors on how many deer will be harvested depends on the county or hunting zone you're in. Locally, some want to increase the deer herd and some want to maintain it; that means close to the same amount or fewer tags will be distributed.

In Eau Claire County east of Highway 27, the DNR is trying to increase the herd, so fewer tags will be given. West of Highway 27, they’re trying to maintain the deer herd, so they’re giving out about the same amount as last year, which could result in similar numbers.

But Luke Weyers, the manager of General Coin and Gun Exchange in Eau Claire thinks avid hunters who travel north to hunt will be out in droves, but people who aren’t quite as dedicated won’t bother.

“There’s too many wolves, too many bear,” Weyers said. “Up in the northern counties, I know a lot of the guys aren’t going to go out. They aren’t going to waste their time.”

Local hunters think this season will be a great year with a lot of deer.

Karl Kragness of Colfax said he’s looking for something rather large this season.

“Well, of course, the thirty pointer just like every year,” Kragness said. “I think, definitely, there's a large deer population. People have done a better job of letting younger deer go and part of that is there's less places for people to hunt.

"I went bow hunting, and I did get a doe,” Haily Henderson, who hunts in Trempealeau County, said. “Hopefully, we'll be able to see something during gun hunting. We usually don't see much over gun hunting in our area."

The DNR wants to remind hunters that Chronic Wasting Disease, or CWD, testing will continue this year. The department says they haven’t seen the disease in wild deer, but it has appeared in captive herds.

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